Making Your Own Tofu

making your own tofu

Making your own tofu may seem like a stretch for many. Yet it can be fun to learn new skills!

One of my favorite things about local foods is being able to cook from scratch and be less dependent on factory farming practices. One way I enjoy being more independent is learning new skills in the kitchen.

Tofu, or soybean curd, is a bland vegetarian protein that is used in many Asian dishes. It offers a nice texture, can take on the flavors of the meal, and is a good source of nutrition.

Making your own tofu can be time consuming, but is easy to do and can boost the flavor of your tofu dishes at home! If you like to eat tofu, making your own tofu could be a fun thing to try.

Why Make Your Own Tofu?

Making tofu is one of those skills I acquired a few years ago. I find that homemade tofu, though certainly more time intensive than buying it, means I know exactly what is in it.

My dried soybeans have much less of an environmental impact when shipped than a bunch of heavy, wet, plastic encased blocks of tofu. I love that I can make it at any time, in larger amounts, and freeze for when i want to use it.

Storing dried soybeans and coagulant takes up much less space in your kitchen, plus dried beans last longer. There are less costs to transport dried beans rather than water logged bean curd. In addition, you can avoid a lot of plastic!

Though soybeans are Maryland’s second largest grain crop, you aren’t likely to find dried soybeans at the farmers market. It’s just not something Americans buy a lot of. You might find edamame, which are immature soybeans still in the pod.

It would be great to find a local source of soybeans. I would prefer to buy organic soybeans, and I order mine online. About 94% of soy grown in the states is GMO, and organic is non-GMO.

GMO soy may be safe, but the whole point of GMO is that they can then use more pesticides on a crop. I prefer less pesticides, so I order the non-GMO and make tofu when I can.

Soy has mixed reviews on whether it is good for you or not, depending on what study you read. The truth is soy is everywhere in processed foods, while homemade tofu is a natural food that has been made for nearly two thousand years. If you eat processed foods, you are eating soy. I would rather eat soy as homemade tofu.

How to Make Your Own Tofu

Tofu is bean curd. Soybeans are soaked, blended, cooked, strained, cooked again, coagulated, and pressed. You need soybeans, water, and some form of coagulant to make your own tofu. An acid like lemon juice or rice vinegar can be used, but traditionally tofu is made with gypsum (calcium sulfate) or nigari (magnesium chloride).

The flavor and texture of tofu can change slightly depending on which coagulant you use. Nigari is sometimes thought to give a slightly bitter taste, while gypsum adds calcium and no flavor. Nigari comes from seawater and gypsum is mined.

I learned how to make tofu from Andrea Nguyen’s book Asian Tofu. You can find similar instructions online from Alpha Foodie and China Sichuan Food.

Making your own tofu starts with soaking dried soybeans overnight. In the morning, drain the beans and blend them with water (amounts vary depending on recipe) into a bean “milkshake”. Cooking this “milkshake” and then straining it gives you fresh soymilk.

Once you have your soymilk, you then cook the soymilk again. After cooking, add your coagulant of choice, and then you will have bean curd and whey in your pot. Put the bean curd in a mold, weight it, and wait 20 minutes or so. You have now made tofu!

Books and websites will give you more detailed instructions. Pictures or videos, amounts of ingredients, and times to cook and soak are helpful.

You can buy simple tofu molds online, but you don’t have to have one. Tofu just needs something to let liquid drain as it firms up. I have one of the bamboo molds but want to get something bigger or engineer something else.

Making one block of tofu takes time, and could be easily scaled up. Making a few blocks at a time means you can freeze extras for later.

Making tofu is a great jumping off point for exploring more ways to use soy. You can make soft or firm tofu, depending on what you prefer. Soymilk is easy. But you can also ferment, smoke, season, or add other ingredients to homemade tofu.

Delicious Ways to Enjoy Your Homemade Tofu

One of the main reasons I want to make more than one block of tofu at a time is Cookie and Kate’s Crispy Baked Tofu recipe. After I spend plenty of time making tofu, then baking it, my family will destroy it in about five minutes if I don’t stop them. It’s that good.

Making more than one batch of tofu could mean we snack on the first batch and then the second could be used in a stir fry of some type. I’ve used baked tofu in pad thai, in curries, and straight off the pan with or without a dipping sauce.

I’ve always had trouble with tofu falling apart in my wok, but once baked, it holds its shape. I find baking it to be worth the extra step.

Making Pad Thai is a great recipe for tofu. I usually modify it based on what I have in the fridge, but keep the sauce the same.

General Tso’s Tofu looks like a delicious option for a stir fry meal. I’d add a bunch of vegetables to it too, marinate the tofu, and bake it rather than pan fry.

Tofu doesn’t have to go only in Asian dishes. You can make some great desserts and smoothies with it, like this Chocolate Banana Pudding. Since tofu has little taste, it can be added to many meals.

Conclusion

Most people aren’t going to make their own tofu. It’s much easier to get it from the store! Still, if you have time, and want to avoid plastic packaging, making your own tofu can be very rewarding.

I like knowing the source of my soybeans. I like that I can make my tofu fresh, at any time. I prefer the flavor of it as well.

Knowing how to make your own tofu means you can learn how to customize it to your taste! Maybe next year you’ll try growing your own soybeans as well….

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